Team Liquid's early exit from the Mid-Season Invitational (MSI) has created many questions about the team's outlook moving forward. After a convincing run through the North American League Championship Series (NA LCS) Playoffs, Team Liquid struggled early on at MSI, finishing in 5th place with a record of 4-7.
As is common after a discouraging showing, questions about the strengths of the team's starting roster have begun to be raised. While both jungler Jake "Xmithie" Puchero and ADC Yiliang "Doublelift" Peng cemented themselves as top international talents, the rest of the starting roster left much to be desired.
Top laner Jung "Impact" Eon-yeong's struggles to play carry champions have created drafting issues for Team Liquid that their opponents are quick to exploit. With little threat of Impact selecting current power picks such as Camille, Team Liquid is forced instead to ban these champions away.
In the current meta, it may be more advantageous to have a top laner who excels on carries rather than tanks. Having a carry player in the top lane opens up a team's draft possibilities by allowing your team to threaten carries from the top lane, while also being proficient on tanks.
For Team Liquid, they need look no further than their Academy team for a master of carry top laners. Omran "V1PER" Shoura is a well-known carry player who has reached rank 1 in NA and Challenger in Korea. While Impact seems secure in his current position as a starter, MSI should be another reminder that he needs to improve his play on carries or Team Liquid will continue to suffer.
At the NA LCS Spring Championship, Eugene "Pobelter" Park looked dominant as he lead Team Liquid to a series sweep and earned himself Finals MVP honors. Still, Pobelter had a disappointing showing at MSI, with poor performances in almost every game Team Liquid wasn’t able to secure him Malzahar.
Part of this could be attributed to a shift in the meta which weakened Pobelters power picks he had used throughout the NA Playoffs. Nerfs to his signature Azir is probably the most notable change, a champion that has only been played once at MSI (including the Play-In Stage).
Likely the most criticized member of the Team Liquid roster has been their support Kim "Olleh" Joo-sung. Throughout the tournament Olleh made multiple positioning issues, leading to a loss of momentum or helping to snowball an enemy advantage. Whether through warding, unsafe pathing, or risky recalls, Olleh was caught out of position multiple times in the tournament.
In addition, Olleh's own tweets have hinted at communication issues within the game. Coupled with reported anxiety issues that caused him to miss a game early in the tournament, Olleh's position in the starting roster appears to be the most precarious of all the current members.
To truly emerge as an international contender, Team Liquid must take a serious look at the play of multiple starting members, and determine if the issues at these positions can be resolved.
Heading into the Summer Split of the NA LCS, Team Liquid will likely be favored to once again claim the crown. Still, for fans of Team Liquid and the rest of the NA LCS, domestic dominance may not be enough to satisfy their desire for success.